I cannot resist the temptation to write about my experience of online and telephone interpreting, joining my colleagues, both frustrated by the necessity to adjust to new working conditions, and still content to continue working in a project or interpret during the events, long planned and anticipated.
The quarantine started when I was in the middle of a big project with a very tight schedule, a two-day pause could be a disaster for us, so switching to a distant mode was a good solution under the circumstances. The Skype turned out to be the most familiar and widely used platform, which surely does not make it perfect. It was not my first experience of interpreting via Skype or phone, or other means of communication, but doing it several hours a day I found out that this might be different depending on the number of people involved, place they are located, not to mention the quality of sound and video.
First and foremost, the video helps (and here I’m not afraid to be obvious, I just want to stress it again). We should take into account that the online interpretation is strictly speaking a different type of work, though technically we do the same. So it is important to have a video, because if you do not see a person, while struggling through a bad sound, coping with the headache which starts no later than in one hour, trying to work through the speaker’s thought that never ends and hardly ever brings you to the matter of discussion, the process of interpreting may turn into a torture, and when it is over, you can hardly hear what your family tell you during the evening tea, your brain is on fire, and you have to control yourself not to smash something in the flat where you now have to work all day long.
Another strange interpreting environment is when three to six people settle for a Skype conference in a big hall very far from just one camera, so you can hardly see their faces, and you are lucky to have a good sound and picture. Sometimes these people talk to one another, you have very little time to catch the point of their discussion and translate it, so you really need some extra skills to make the information you communicate sound reasonable, understandable and clear.
However, all the advantages of a video connection via Skype become obvious only when you try a conference call over WhatsApp or Viber, and the like. Interpreting an audio conference with four-five participants is the worst, especially if you use your phone for that. No video support, a poor or disappearing sound, etc. We should not forget that sometimes people get annoyed, the talk is not that nice and peaceful, and you feel this tension but cannot let it stress you out.
My conclusions about the massive attack of new requirements the life is imposing on us one more time is that we again need to know the challenges and tell our clients about them, for instance we can regulate (or at least try) the time of continuous online sessions (we need a break each 50-60 minutes, the working day should not be over 4-5 hours), make sure the video is on, the sound check is done before the action not during it. Still, we are lucky to have this chance to continue working under the force-major conditions and at least be sure we can earn our living.